New Year, New Things To Do

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Over the last couple of years, I’ve made to-do lists to keep me on track in terms of things I want to accomplish or to at least keep me focused in a few key areas that are important to me. 2018 turned out to be a year of great distraction, but also productive in some regards.

My To Do List for 2019 remains the same, but with a few adjustments.

  1. Read. A lot.

2018: Goodreads 2018 Challenge to read 40 books: Accomplished and Exceeded with 43 books).

2019: I set the same reading goal of 40 books. In addition, I joined a book discussion group online – a first for me! The idea is to keep up with it and be more involved in the literary community.

2. Write and Submit

2018: This is where I got distracted by a number of things. I did not write as much as I have in the past and only submitted a few pieces. The challenge of a new day job, increased activity in another area of interest, and a simple lack of motivation contributed to this.

2019: The realization of my distraction hit me hard and made realize how much I miss writing. This is going to be a year of finding my groove again and truly deciding what I want to write. I’m looking at some freelance opportunities and I know will absolutely continue writing poetry. However, I also want to jump back into fiction and blogging on a more regular basis. As far submitting goes, I think I have some soul-searching to do and once I find my groove, I can start thinking about what to submit and where. This is clearly a rebuilding year!

3. Travel.

2018: I thrived in this aspect traveling to Indiana multiple times, Florida (new to me!), Italy, and Switzerland. As someone who travelled extensively years ago, it was nice to get back in this saddle. I fully intend on continuing this trend.

2019: Wheels are already in motion on the travel front. I’ll be heading to Belgium in the summer with plans to visit at least one other bordering country while I’m there. I’m also hoping to visit a new state within the U.S.

4. Look for open doors and step through them.

2018: The open door I walked through lead to a new position at work. As a whole, I love what I’m doing, but it’s not without challenges and the frustration of learning a new job (for which there is no training!). Still, I love the concept of looking for opportunities and staying open to them instead of remaining complacent. Huge life lesson learned!

2019: Keep watch for those open doors and opportunities. Never again do I want to find myself bored and unstimulated because I’ve been doing the same thing for too long.

5. Give.

2018: I walked into this one with grand goals, which I constructed before I even thought about applying for my new job! That being said, I did end up accomplishing a fair amount of giving. With my students, we knit about 2 dozen hats for charity. Whenever, I have a few moments, I pick up my crochet hook or knitting needles and crank out a hat or a kennel blanket.

2019: I still plan on using my crafty skills to do some good. This year I’ll be looking for ways to get students more involved in the process, while carving out some personal time to create things that challenge my skills and benefit organizations I care about the most.

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c.b.w. 2019

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Checking Off The 2017 To-Do List

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Last year, I made a to-do list instead of New Year’s Resolutions. Weirdly, it worked better than any set of goals or list of resolutions I’ve ever made. Some boxes still need to be checked, but overall I can count 2017 as being quite productive.

Item #1: Declutter

Give the state of my head, this one makes sense! However, the clutter in my head is only part of the problem. The house is cluttered, My classroom is cluttered. The past is cluttered.

Done! As someone who just seems to naturally collect things, this was a tough task. I cleared out more than 150 books, 100 CDs and DVDs, 20+ dolls, countless objects from closets, and even more stuff from my classroom and associated storage areas. My classroom in particular feels like an entirely new (and open) space.

In many ways, I have a clean and clear slate. It feels great! There’s still a little more work to do on some shelves and one closet, but I’m ready to dive in and clear even more out.

Item #2: Publish Something

Over the last couple of years, I’ve written over a thousand haiku. I think it’s about time to put together a chapbook or two! I’m probably going to self-publish using a digital platform. There are so many options out there, many of which are free, so I don’t have much of an excuse not to do this!

The same goes for my novel. I’m going to get back into the game of sending out query packages, but I’m also going to dig deeper into research regarding self-publishing outlets. It’s time to get this done!

This is still on the to-do list, unfortunately. However, it isn’t from lack of trying. I managed to score some little victories that pull the dream of publication closer to reality. Between personalized query responses, a top ten finish in a poetry competition, a full manuscript request, and upcoming competitions, this item still has my focus.

Item #3: Read 35 Books

As I have for the last five years, I’ve once again joined the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Done! I was a lean, mean reading machine this year with a grand total 47 books.

Item #4: Survive National Board Certification

The road to National Board Certification has been brutal … I have one more component to finish and hopefully it will be enough to not only survive, but achieve National Board Certification.

Done! By some miracle, I not only finished, but achieved National Board Certification. It’s still sinking in and it still feels totally and completely surreal.

Item #5: Take Better Care of Myself

I need to eat better, sleep better, and leave more stress at the door. I let the day job invade much too large of a space in my life and it’s time to push it back to where it belongs: at work.

Done in some areas, needs work in others. I’ve definitely created stronger divisions between my personal and professional life and it has impacted me in a positive way. I’ve eliminated a huge source of stress and I feel much better on a daily basis. It’s amazing how setting clear guidelines for your personal and professional time can make such a big difference. Sometimes work does have to come home with me, but I’m careful about how much time it’s allowed to take. Most things I think have to be done right now, can actually wait.

As far as eating better – I’m working on it. That darn chocolate and severe dislike of cooking are hurdles I will have to work harder at overcoming!

As for sleeping better – I’m a lost cause. I’m an insomniac to the core, but I’m getting better at relaxing at more reasonable hours.

Item #6: Go Somewhere

I miss traveling. It’s time for another adventure. 🙂

Yes, it is! My husband and I renewed our passports this summer. We were unable to go anywhere in 2017 due to our elderly furbaby who needed constant care. However, with his sad passing and taking the time to grieve, we have reached a new chapter in our lives. Amsterdam is at the top of our list for the coming summer!

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As 2018 approaches, I’m already thinking about what’s next on the To-Do List. Stay tuned! 🙂

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How did your To Do List go for 2017?

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c.b.w. 2017

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The Instagram Experiment

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I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures even though I’m not the most talented photographer out there. I never set out to be – let’s make that very clear. My usual philosophy is to simply point the camera at something pretty and the rest will take care of itself. Sometimes it works, but most of the time ….. not so much!

My first look at Instagram blew me away. There are so many amazing photographers out there and quite honestly I found it intimidating. Plus, I don’t do selfies, so that ruled out another huge part of Instagram. So, I didn’t join.

It all changed this summer, when I decided I didn’t really care what anyone else thought of my pictures. I just wanted to have fun with my camera and play with the idea of snapping random photographs. If anything, I was infinitely curious of what I would do. Call it an experiment of the self, if you will.

The results of my little experiment surprised me. I didn’t expect it to be such a cathartic experience, nor did I expect it to mirror another element of my life so closely. I found I didn’t worry at all about framing my shot or achieving the perfect image. I cared more about what I photographing and how it made me feel within a given moment.

I took pictures of the books I read, craft projects, writing projects, the weather (the monsoon sky in particular) and random things like movie tickets and my iPod. In many respects, nothing that special to anyone but me. My summer was supposed to be about decompressing, relaxing, and reconnecting with the things I love to do. Everything on my Instagram feed reflects that fact.

The significance of taking pictures of seemingly small things didn’t really hit me until about a month into the experiment. My practice of writing haiku ties in so perfectly with what I’ve been doing with my camera. Haiku is all about capturing a feeling, a moment, or something fleeting. Camera in hand, I found some minute detail in each day that was worth celebrating. In many ways, playing on Instagram reminded me of the importance of the little things. They are so often overshadowed by the bigger things that try so hard to distract us from what really matters.

Are there some pictures I wish I hadn’t posted? Yep. But only because they are sooo bad. However, they will remain as they reflect a memory I want to keep. Sometimes it isn’t about being perfect, its about being in the moment.

I still don’t do the selfie thing, though.

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If you dig “in the moment” pics, follow me on Instagram: @cbwentworth

🙂

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c.b.w. 2017

At Summer’s End

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I can’t believe it’s already been two months since the school year ended! Where does the time go? While I’d give just about anything for another month of summer bliss, I’m also anxious to get back into the classroom.

At the start of this summer, I made a list of things I wanted to do with my time away from work, (see Summer Plans). I was successful on some things and a total failure on others. Still, it was a nice summer full of unexpected discoveries.

  1. Start trail running, again.

This did not happen. Record heat made this goal almost impossible. When its 110-115 degrees more often than not, the health benefits of trail running go right out the window. I’m hoping to revisit the trails after it cools down a bit. I’ll take 90 degrees at this point!

2. Start cooking, again.

When I set this goal, I thought about pulling out the crock pot or the wonderbag, but the heat once again came into play. Instead, I played around with fruit salads, crackers, and cheeses. Light, cool meals that included all the major food groups became my mission … and it was fun! Rather than rely on recipe cards, I created my own combinations of fresh foods.

3. Knit.

I finish one pair of socks, four washcloths, one dog blanket (using scrap yarn), and worked on a few nearly completed projects that are being difficult, (sometimes the finishing phase is the most tricky). Overall, the knitting needles got a great workout!

4. Write.

My haiku journal is nearly full! It seems my muse just can’t get enough of those tiny poems!

The goal to send out query packages, unfortunately, was not met due to a surprise project that dropped into my lap, (see Getting All Nostalgic and A Weird Writing Dilemma). I plan on jumping back into this process very soon. I have all the pieces in place (i.e. query, synopsis, and agent list), so I just have to construct the packages and hit send.

5. Read.

I set the goal of being five books ahead in my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge. In the next couple of days, I should reach that goal. I read like a lunatic this summer, happily devouring eight books in two months.

6. Learn something new.

I had no idea where this goal would lead and it ended up yielding the most surprises. When I came home from vacation with a new-to-me vintage Barbie doll, it triggered an entire summer of vintage Barbie madness, (see My Vintage Gals and Adding to the Vintage Crew).

Because my budget doesn’t allow for splurging on mint condition vintage Barbie and clothes, I instead purchased two vintage dolls and several fashions in need of repair. I had some basic knowledge of the restoration process, but not nearly enough to solve some of the problems plaguing the newest additions to my collection.

I learned how to:

  • clean deeply rooted stains on vinyl
  • reshape limbs
  • fix neck or torso splits
  • safely remove age stains and spots from vintage fabric
  • correctly identify vintage Barbie dolls (differentiating marks, face paint, and common issues that effect one doll, but not another).
  • correctly assess the value of a doll and fashions based on condition and availability

I’m still on a learning curve, but I’m loving the process as a whole. I’ve learned so much and I like knowing I’m able to do right by the dolls in my collection.

7. Binge on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Done! I caught up on my Top Tier shows, (i.e. Grimm, The Blacklist, Bob’s Burgers, etc) and explored a few more including, Doctor Thorne (Amazon Prime). Then, I re-watched Daredevil Seasons 1 and 2, again. It’s sooooo good!!

8. Work.

As expected, I couldn’t stay away too long. By mid-July my dining room table was planning central for AP World History. I have the first two weeks planned and ready to go. In addition, I created a website for the class because I use a modified flipped classroom model.

9. Spend time with family, furkids, and friends.

Having so much free time was truly a gift. I was able to visit my dad and hang out more often with my mother and sister. However, being able to spend so much time with my remaining dog was the most precious part of my summer. He is elderly and does not have much time left – I made every day count as much as possible.

It was also a gift to spend time with friends I normally don’t see outside of work. I’m lucky to have co-workers I’ve come to count as close, personal friends. We said we’d hang out over the summer and we did. This was a big deal because we say that every year and never actually do it. I’m truly grateful to have such wonderful friends.

10. Clean out the house.

Done! The shed, closets, and hobby room all got purged of things no longer needed. A local charity and the dump received multiple visits. It’s a good feeling to clear out the clutter.

In the process I came across forgotten items that reminded me of the person I was before I lost so much. Its been a rough few years of grief and pain. Recently, I’ve felt the dark clouds lifting and this rediscovery is yet another piece that allows me to find my new normal.

My home and work spaces have been redefined and all feels new, yet I feel the old me resurfacing. The me that is overtly optimistic and isn’t afraid to be a little funky and push the rules a bit. I’ve missed that part of me and it’s nice to have it back.

All in all, it was a great summer!

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c.b.w. 2016

 

Back To The Novel Front

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It’s been a loooooong time since the subject of my novel has come up here, in my head, or anywhere else. Some think I’ve given it up or just don’t care anymore, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s always been lingering in the background waiting for me to come back to it.

Here’s where things get brutally honest. There were a number of reasons why I had to shelve my passion project. Most of them revolved around having no choice but to reorganize priorities. I’ve heard writers are supposed to have tunnel vision when writing and pushing for publication, but I refused to keep the blinders on when it came to being there for those I care about when they needed me the most. That meant redirecting my muse towards shorter writing projects so I could be at hospital beds, visit with friends who had limited time in this world, and provide extra care to aging furkids.

There was also the little thing of having to take care of myself. I needed to take a step back in a number areas of my life, so I could evaluate and adjust to so many changes that have taken place in the last three years. It’s been overwhelming to say the least and I’m not sorry for taking the time I needed. Slowly but surely, I’m coming back to things that have gathered dust during my absence.

Last week, my novel muse is started to whir back to life. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I opened the file for The Muse. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about after so much time …

Would I still like it?

Does it still read like a finished novel?

What about the Chapter 1 rewrite – does it still work?

With all those questions rolling around in my head, I read through the most recent draft. I still love it. Minutes later, I opened my Query Tracker spreadsheet and updated all the information I had for agents on my list (a lot has changed since my last round of query packages!). While it sucked to add a few more rejections to the list, it was energizing to select the next batch of agents that will be receiving query packages.

Now, here’s where things get fun. It turns out my muse had another surprise in store for me. My characters started talking to me again (I swear I’m not crazy!). The sequel for The Muse has been locked away for a while, but I opened up the file again and pulled my Novel Notebook from the shelf. I outlined two major sections of the plot and found I need to conjure up two new characters, and add depth to one that already exists. How cool is that?? It looks like this summer will be full of creativity and more world building!

Like so many other things in my life I’m sure the process will be slow, but it’s nice to be back on the novel front.

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c.b.w. 2016